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FOI compliance falls short

| 28/08/2013 | 23 Comments

(CNS): The latest decision from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) combined with the findings in its latest report show that government departments' compliance with the Freedom of Information law appears to be getting worse. With resources scarce at the ICO and government entities apparently still not recognising that transparency is far cheaper than attempting to cover things up, applicants are still being given the runaround and public servants often appear to be merely paying lip service to the law. In her latest ruling, Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert found that the delays and difficulties at the Child and Family Services Department were “unacceptable”.

The DCFS for the most part did not meet ICO deadlines, they withheld records that should have been released far earlier than they were, and a conflict of interest was identified with the Human Resource Manager and Information Manager (IM) being the same person, forcing the department to appoint a new IM.

Under section 52 of the FOI Law, public authorities must maintain their records in a manner that facilitates timely retrieval and allows them to comply with freedom of information requests. “In this case the responsive records were not promptly and thoroughly identified and provided, and this may have been the case because of poor record keeping,” Dilbert found.

Listing a catalogue of problems associated with what was a very sensitive application, Dilbert said the DCFS handled the process poorly.

According to information which was given to CNS by the applicant who is a former employee of the department, the FOI request was made in pursuit of a much bigger and broader complaint. The applicant is accusing the department of unethical behaviour and pushing her out of a job as a result of false allegations based on records which she has now been able to prove do not exist as aresult of the request.

While Dilbert avoided detailing the complaint in her findings on the appeal, the applicant has gone through an exceptionally long process to not only prove that false allegaions have been made against her, but that there are serious ethical flaws in the way things are being conducted at the department.

In this case, which is Dilbert's 31st appeal, as with many others the information commissioner was forced to deal with a department’s failure to comply with the law in a number of different areas. As is increasingly common with government entities, endless delays in finding and then releasing documents, coupled with poor compliance resulted in a difficult and protracted case.

In her latest quarterly report Dilbert said that many appeals handled by her officer are down to poor procedural handling of requests by public authorities. Although PAs are by law required to conduct a reasonable search for records relevant to a request, and communicate with the applicant to ensure that there are no misunderstandings, the ICO said many public authorities do not take this duty sufficiently seriously.

“It is becoming increasingly commonfor significant numbers of new records to surface after an appeal has been raised and the ICO is in the midst of conducting a pre-hearing investigation, sometimes even after the applicant has repeatedly been assured that no responsive records exist,” she said in the final report for 2012/13.

Although it may be a positive step that a complete search is eventually conducted, even if it is after significant pressure from the ICO, this approach is unfair and inefficient. “It causes significant delays and creates unnecessary and entirely avoidable tensions between Government and applicants,” the commissioner said. She noted that her office is also finding it increasingly difficult to secure the cooperation of some public authorities and civil servants, even at the highest levels, in the context of an appeal.

“While an applicant is by law entitled to reasons why records are being withheld, such an explanation is sometimes not or insufficiently given, and it is not uncommon for full reasons to be delayed until a hearing has commenced,” she observed. “This is not acceptable, fair or legal, and the ICO will not tolerate it,” Dilbert warned. “One of the side effects of this deteriorating approach by some public authorities is the fact that appeals are taking longer to resolve. According to ICO statistics, in 2012-13 it was on average taking almost two months longer for the ICO to resolve an appeal through a hearing than before,” she added.
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The commissioner is now scheduled to meet with Deputy Governor Franz Manderson to seek his support in ensuring that Freedom of Information requests are dealt with by public authorities in accordance with the Law.

The commissioner revealed that she will not be renewing her contract at the end of this year as she will be retiring and so the search will soon be on to replace Dilbert, who has been at the helm of the cash strapped but critical office in the reform of government since the FOI law was implemented.

See appeal 31 and latest report below.

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Number of questionable warrants unknown

| 06/08/2013 | 27 Comments

(CNS): Following shocking revelations in a recent court case that a justice of the peace had signed a police warrant without having a clue what it was for, what the crime was or seeing any evidence to support it, concerns have been raised that there may be many more such examples. However, an FOI request to the RCIPS reveals that the police have no record system dealing with what warrants have been signed and by whom, as each one is attached to the criminal case file. The RCIPS has told an applicant looking for details of who has signed warrants and why over the last three years that her request was being was refused on the grounds that the police would have to search through more than 8,500 files to try and comply.

The request made by Sandra Catron, the local activist who exposed the fact that a warrant used for her arrest and to search her home, office and car in an abuse of an ICT network case was fundamentally flawed because the JP not understand the alleged crime, he was given no evidence and he did not swear the oath but merely signed the warrant at the request of the officers. The man also admitted that in more than two decades as a JP he had never refused to sign a warrant.

This has raised concerns that many other warrants may have been signed in similar circumstances. While the Commissioner of Police David Baines has now changed the procedure regarding warrants, the revelation means that could be many, many more arrest warrants that were not properly executed and may have been signed by the same JP or others who were not aware of the law, had not seen any evidence or had not sworn an oath. This means that hundreds of arrests, charges and ultimatelyconvictions could be called into question if it was found that warrants were obtained unlawfully.

Despite the possibility of hundreds of flawed warrants, the police do not know how many warrants may have been signed by the JP in the Catron case or by other JPs who may be equally unaware of the law surrounding warrants and under what circumstances they should be signed.

However, when Catron submitted her request for details of warrants for just the last three years that had been signed by JPs, the RCIPS information manager said that the police did not keep a warrant record system. He explained that the warrants were attached to the criminal case files and that is where they stay as they wind through the justice process and then into the archives.

“After warrants have been executed they remain with the investigative files throughout the investigation, when files are submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions office by the RCIPS for ruling and when the matters are before the courts,” said Raymond Christian, the RCIPS information manager. He said that after the matters have been disposed of by the courts and the files are returned to the RCIPS through the DPP’s office, the warrants remain with the files until they are filed in accordance with the Cayman Islands National archives and public records law. 

Christian explained in a letter to the applicant (see below) that the RCIPS does not have a search warrant retrieval system where warrants can be identified and retrieved separately. If an internal enquiry was to be made of all police officers who obtained and executed search warrants going back three years, the information may not be accurate because officers have left the service, he said. Between June 2010 and June 2013 the police recorded a total of 8,567 separate crimes.

“In order for us to accurately answer your question we would have to physically search through about 8,567 files, which would unreasonably divert our resources,” the police information boss told the applicant, as he cited the section of the FOI law under which he was refusing the request.

After the court found that the Catron warrant was flawed and the arrest and search unlawful, the judge paved the way for Catron to apply for damages, which will come from the public purse. The revelation that there could be a large number criminal case files stored by the police with warrants attached to them that no one can say for sure were executed correctly could lead to many arrests being called into question.

Following the response from Christian refusing her request, Catron told CNS that she was considering her options and may request an internal review.

Related articles on CNS:

Legal blunders could cost the public purse dear

Top cop changes JP policy

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ICO throws book at CINICO

| 01/08/2013 | 21 Comments

(CNS): The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has described the government’s health insurance company’s approach to the freedom of information law as "appalling" and accused the government company of violating both the spirit and the letter of the FOI law. Commissioner Jenifer Dilbert has made a number of directions that the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company (CINICO) must now follow to improve its understanding and application of the law, as this is the second time it has repeatedly contravened the FOI law during an appeal. In this case, not only did CINICO fail to provide a decision within the statutory 30 days but it also refused to say why it was refusing an applicant full access to board minutes.

In her 33rd decision since the FOI law came into force, Dilbert has used the law to throw the proverbial book at the public authority for its multiple and repeated violations of the law and is failure to cooperate with her office.

The case began with a simple request on11 February this year for a copy of the CINICO Board minutes of 30 January. The request was acknowledged within the statutory 10 calendar days, but only after being prompted by the applicant. However, on 21 March the information manager refused the request, saying the minutes had not yet been approved. The applicant asked for an internal review and the CEO released redacted minutes on 15 April, stating that the redaction was made under "section 21(1)(a)(b)” of the law, which does not exist, and gave no explanation why.

As a result, on 16 April the applicant asked the ICO for an appeal. But even during the appeal, Dilbert said, CINICO continued to refuse to cooperate about its reasons until the eleventh hour when it said that the redaction was to protect a request for proposal (RFP).

“I note that CINICO’s approach violated both the spirit and the letter of the FOI Law, and was uncommonly unhelpful towards the ICO and the Applicant alike,” Dilbert stated in her decision. “Needless to say that CINICO’s actions fell far short of the expected mark. Even after several requests by the ICO, CINICO refused to cooperate with the ICO’s pre-hearing investigation; I can only find CINICO’s refusal to state the reasons for its decision clearly, as well as its stubborn rejection of the ICO’s pleas to communicate during the appeals process, appalling.”

The information boss pointed out that not only was there uncertainty for the applicant and for the integrity of the appeals process, but it was also an unacceptable and clear violation of the rights of the applicantto be told the reasons for withholding the redacted information. The law clearly expects that a public authority explains exactly why information is being withheld.

“CINICO did not communicate any lawful reasons for withholding the information in its initial decision, and quoted a non-existent section of the Law as the reason in its internal review. Therefore, CINICO did not meet its legal obligations,” Dilbert said, adding that the authority did not conduct a public interest test, in which the factors supporting withholding the information were balanced against the need for accountability and openness in government processes and decisions.

The refusal by CINICO to properly apply the law and their failure to cooperate caused significant issues, but Dilbert also stated that she struggled to find any justification for the redaction.

“As a result, I have no clear indication as to what commercial value the redacted information has and whether this could be destroyed or diminished in value if the information is disclosed, and, if so, how,” she explained, as she ordered the release of the un-redacted minutes.

Referring to a previous decision, where she had found that CINICO repeatedly contravened the provisions of the FOI law, she said the continued contraventions demonstrated a “lack of respect” for the FOI law as well as the policies and procedures of her office.

"It is therefore necessary for me to bring the full force of the Law to ensure compliance in future," Dilbert stated, as she listed the actions she expected CINICO to take over the next three months to put their FOI stall in order.

“I find that in the course of this request and appeal, CINICO has egregiously and wilfully failed to comply with the following sections of the FOI Law," and said these infractions took place on the heels of similar contraventions.

The commissioner said she was hampered in the investigation of this case by CINICO’s disregard for the law as well as the policies and procedures of the ICO.

Dilbert directed CINICO to disclose the responsive record in full and ordered that the senior management of CINICO attend her office for further training in dealing with freedom of information requests. Referring the board to what she said was the egregious and willful failure of the management to comply with its obligations under the law, she also recommended that the board meet with her to learn the statutory requirements which CINICO is subject to under the FOI law.

She said that CINICO should take the appropriate steps to bring it into compliance with the law and to advise her office within three months of the decision what steps have been taken to comply with the ICO requirements.

See the full decision below or go to www.infocomm.ky.

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FOI appeal set for trial

| 29/07/2013 | 12 Comments

(CNS): According to court documents, the battle between Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert and the governor’s office over an FOI request has been listed for trial on 30 October. The current governor, Duncan Taylor, initiated the appeal against a decision by Dilbert ordering the release of records relating to the controversial internal RCIPS probe, Operation Tempura, but because he will be leaving the Cayman Islands in September, Helen Kilpatrick, who was announced as the country’s new governor in June, will pick up the case. If the case does go to trial later this year, as is expected, it will be the first courtroom challenge to a decision by Dilbert.

Sir Justice Alan Moses, who is currently handling the case, has said that John Evans, the person who made the original FOI request for the documents but who dropped his request following Dilbert’s ruling, has ceased to be directly affected by the case.

The issue surrounds a report on the results of a complaint made by Martin Bridger, the lead investigator on the ill-fated operation into alleged police corruption in Cayman that began in 2007. The FOI request made by Evans, a former reporter with Cayman Net News who was involved in the original investigation, was denied by the governor's office but following the FOI appeal process, the information commissioner ordered the report’s release.

Shortly afterwards, Evans withdrew his FOI application but by that time the governor had filed a court action to appeal the decision and, given the public interest in the document, the commissioner has nevertheless pressed on, hoping that the courts will back her order for release in line with the law.

The document is believed to reveal a number of embarrassing issues for the governor’s office over the handling of the entire bungled operation. It is also understood to detail the allegations by Bridger thatthe governor at the time, Stuart Jack, and Attorney General Sam Bulgin were both aware of an alleged illegal late night entry into the offices of Cayman Net News by John Evans and Lyndon Martin, who were employees of the newspaper looking for evidence of RCIPS corruption.

Although the real ins and outs and motivations for Operation Tempura remain a mystery, Bridger has implied that the entire affair, which lasted some two years, was based on the fact that the commissioner of police at the time, Stuart Kernohan, and senior police officer, John Jones, had unlawfully authorized the two reporters to ‘break-in’ to Net News and look for incriminating emails between their boss, the late Desmond Seales, and Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis, allegations which were very quickly discovered to be unfounded.

Bridger  has since stated that what seemed to be a bungled burglary was authorized by Larry Covington, the FCO’s regional security advisor, and that both the former governor and the attorney general knew that Kernohan had decided to take this course of action before calling in an outside police team to see if they could get to the bottom of the accusations that a senior RCIPS officer was feeding police operational information to the newspaper.

As the FOI challenge by the governor, which was filed in January with the courts, moves slowly through the judicial system, Bridger is also fighting for the right to use the report and related complaint as well as other documents he has in his possession in his own legal battled with Kernohan, who has filed an unlawful dismissal suit and civil action against the CIG and the Tempura boss.

Although Bridger has seen the report, which cost the public purse around $300,000 to produce, he has been bound by a confidentiality order not to release the content.

But some of the document’s content was reported in the UK press and the former Scotland Yard cop's main gripe was that his investigation was prematurely ended by the authorities in Cayman in what he claims amounted to an orchestrated cover-up of errors and bad decisions by the powers that be.

Given the costly efforts that the governor’s office continues to make to keep the content of the report secret, it is unlikely that trial will be open to the public. However, if the court upholds Dilbert’s decision or if Bridger wins his battled to use all of the document’s in the Kernohan case, then the Cayman public, which footed what is believed to be the $10 million bill for the investigation, Bridger may eventually be able to put the Operation Tempura pieces together.

See court order below.

Related article on CNS:

Challenge-to-info-boss-begins-court-process

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Mac says bank robbed CIG

| 08/07/2013 | 81 Comments

Mac good1.jpg(CNS): The former premier of the Cayman Islands attacked Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, accused CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank of robbery and expressed his distrust of members of the Central Tenders Committee in correspondence relating to his failed attempts to once again re-package the public debt by circumventing the tendering process towards the end of last year. Correspondence released following an FOI request by CNS reveals a tirade from McKeeva Bush to FS Jefferson after he had advised the premier to use the CTC and follow process. However, Bush blamed Jefferson for the collapse of the Cohen deal in 2011 and the subsequent deal with the local bank, which he described as "robbery".

The exchange of emails (attached below) between the former leader of the Cayman Islands and Jefferson was copied to the governor, who expressed his concern about the abusive correspondence, and reveals that Bush believed the local authorities were conspiring to make him “look bad” and undermining his constitutional right to make the potential new loan deal.

The correspondence, which includes expletives, also shows that Bush regarded Nick Freeland, who was appointed as chair of the CTC last year, as the “governor’s man” and he expressed his distrust of the appointment of Richard Harris, which he said had been made without his knowledge. Inaddition, Bush accused Jefferson and other government officials, including the governor and the auditor general, of conspiring to deliberately stop him from trying to get a better deal for government and the country.

Warning the FS that he would not allow him to go “down the same road again”, as he had implied that it was Jefferson who had “shoved” CIBC into the mix, Bush said that if the governor, Jefferson and others got their way, it would not be the last of it.

The emails sent in October and November of last year make it clear that Bush believed Jefferson had a hand in the collapse of the controversial deal with Cohen and Co and suggested that Peter Young, who had advised on that deal and who was a leading member of the UDP at the time, “should have sued everyone” in relation to the failed deal.

This latest correspondence relates to attempts by Bush, with the assistance of attorney Wilton McDonald, to contract Caledonian Bank to organise the re-financing on more than $300million of the government’s debt. Bush made it clear he did not want to use the tendering process and was insisting that Caledonian, with whom he signed an engagement letter, remained in the mix, even if the issue went to tender.

The finance ministry confirmed Monday that an invoice sent to government for $300,000 for that bank’s services, as per the engagement letter signed by Bush, without the knowledge of the UK or local ministry officials, was never paid. Wilton McDonald also contacted CNS and stated that he had taken no fees for his services in arranging the negotiations with Caledonian.

Emails between Jefferson and Freeland, the CTC chair, indicate the concerns raised by officials by the efforts to circumvent process once again. Freeland told Jefferson that his advice to Bush to terminate attempts to deal solely with Caledonian and engage in a proper tender was not just a matter of rates but penalties that the CIG could incur by an early termination of some loans. He also noted the need to consider the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility, an agreement the premier had signed with the UK the previous year, and the need for an independent business case to justify the re-packaging.

Bush’s efforts to re-finance the deal were eventually scuppered by the UK. However, the ministry has withheld part of the FOI request relating to the letter sent to the FCO requesting the re-packaging and any response that may have related to it. CNS has requested an internal review of the decision.

See related article on CNS:

Mac tried more loan deals

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CINICO fails to comply with FOI law

| 13/06/2013 | 1 Comment

micky.JPG(CNS): Despite upholding CINICO’s decision not to release their unaudited financial statements for the financial year ending 2012, the information commissioner said the government’s insurance company repeatedly failed to comply with the law during the latest open records request dispute. Jennifer Dilbert said that throughout the course of the request, investigation and hearing discussed in her 30th decision, CINICO “repeatedly contravened the provisions of the FOI Law”, as well as the policies and procedures of her office. She said that from request to hearing, there were delays and noncompliance “at almost every step of the process”.

The applicant was seeking a copy of CINICO’s financial statements for 2011/12 and even though under the terms of the Public Management and Finance Law they should now be a public document, Dilbert upheld CINICO’s decision to defer the release until the accounts have been audited and tabled in the Legislative Assembly or until a reasonable time period had elapsed.

However, in this latest ruling Dilbert highlighted the procedural failures from start to finish and said that most seriously, “contrary to the requirements of section 7(5)” of the law both the information manager and the principal officer failed to provide the applicant with reasons for withholdingthe responsive record, and it was not until well into the appeal that the reasons were provided.

Dilbert recorded that the timeallowed by law to conduct an internal review was exceeded and records were only provided to her office after many delays and repeated prompting, and a submission giving CINICO’s views in writing, as required under section 43, was not provided by the date agreed in the Notice of Hearing.

“A submission was forthcoming only after I personally informed them that as the burden of proof lies with the public authority to show that it acted in accordance with its obligations under the Law, I would order the record released if they did not provide same. Computer issues were cited as the reason for the delay, which was verified by their IT service providers,” she stated.

The full decision and the catalogue of failures by CINICO from 20 November, when the statutory authority denied access to the requested records without giving any reasons under the FOI Law, through to 29 April of this year, when Dilbert wrote to CINICO to say that she was ordering the release of the documents if she did not receive submissions by 1 May, are posted below.

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Info boss crushed by cuts

| 13/05/2013 | 22 Comments

budget-cuts-300x300.jpg(CNS): The information commissioner has warned that her office’s ability to function properly is under threat because of budget cuts. In addition, the office’s legal budget has been removed at a time when the governor’s office is challenging a decision by the commissioner in relation to her order to release information in connection with the discredited internal police investigation Operation Tempura. Writing in her quarterly report on the activities of the office, Jennifer Dilbert stated that the budget cuts were such that it was seriously interfering with the independence of her office. The introduction of FOI has changed the electorate’s relationship with government and hampering its progress via financial restrictions should be of genuine concern to voters.

“This quarter the ICO has seriously felt the effects of the severe budget cuts imposed on the Office during this financial year,” the report states. “The absence of a Senior Analyst, a post which was not funded for 2012/13, coupled with an increase in the number and complexity of appeals, has meant that the ICO has been unable to carry out necessary investigations into public authorities’ compliance with the Law.”

Dilbert also notes that she was unable to provide any out of office training for new staff or development of the management team.

More directly of concern was what can only be described as a worrying coincidence that, just as the commissioner begins a legal battle with the governor’s office over an order, the means she needs to fight that battle have been completely cut.

“The Commissioner’s legal assistance for the Governor’s judicial review challenge … has been provided to date by a local law firm, who have kindly agreed to represent the Commissioner with no up-front funding. Despite pleas for legal representation funding, repeatedly made to the Premier and the Financial Secretary, and then to the entire Legislative Assembly, no funding has so far been forthcoming,” Dilbert stated.

“The legal and professional fees budget of the ICO was completely stripped away during budget cuts, and the Commissioner has always stated that should it become necessary funding would have to be provided,” she said adding that she and the deputy commissioner were still actively involved with legal counsel, in preparations for the hearing of the Judicial Review, which is likely to take place in September or October this year.

Dilbert explained that the budget issues have a very real negative effect on the ability of the office to meet its obligations under the Law.

In addition, as more and more public authorities seem to bend the law when itcomes to the process, for the first time in one of the quarterly reports from her office the information commissioner said that she and her deputy met with the Department of Public Prosecutions to discuss the procedures for seeking to bring charges against any public authority that may be in contravention of section 55 of the FOI Law.

Although the report does not indicate which authority or why, this is the first time since Dilbert began publishing quarterly reports that she has indicated the need for possible legal action against an authority, as she reminded all public authorities that they commit an offence if they alter, deface, block erase, conceal or destroy records with the intention of preventing disclosure.

The report reveals that several investigations were instigated by the office and a number of orders were also issued because of compliance failures by government departments and entities.

During the last quarter of 2012 121 Freedom of Information requests were logged into the central FOI tracking system by public authorities. This figure represents a 7% increase in requests from the previous period, and a 20% increase over the same period last year. Of the 121 requests received, 83 were closed during the same period, as were 34 carried over from the previous quarter.

A total of 31 out of 92 public authorities received requests in this period. The other 62 authorities did not log any FOI requests and the office believes that some FOI requests are not being logged into the system.

See full report and news letter from the office below.

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FOI under resourced but Cayman battles on

| 29/04/2013 | 4 Comments

dilbert.JPG(CNS): The Cayman Islands information commissioner is not alone in her battle to deal with a mounting workload in the face of declining resources. Jennifer Dilbert and her team joined 33 other offices around the world in a survey recently undertaken by the Centre for Freedom of Information based in the UK. The research found that many commissioners believe they are under resourced. According to the results, 58% said their financial and staff resources were insufficient, while another 19%, including Cayman, reported that its resources were ‘not at all sufficient’. Nevertheless, Dilbert said Cayman had made great strides despite the resistance to the law.

“When looking at the overall results of the survey, it is evident that the Cayman Islands legislation and enforcement holds up well with respect to time taken to deal with appeals, the completion of appeals within statutory timeframes and the powers of the Commissioner,” Dilbert said. “Unfortunately, in terms of capacity to deal with current and projected workloads, Cayman falls into the 19% of commissioners who believe that their financial and staff resources, are not at all sufficient.”

Dilbert added that the survey demonstrated that Cayman should be recognized for the strides it has made over the past four years in the area of access to information. She said she was proud to report that, despite the challenges she faces with respect to resources and resistance to freedom of information, Cayman continues to be an example both regionally and internationally of a small island state where access legislation is making a difference in the lives of many people.

The Centre for Freedom of Information is a joint venture between the School of Law, University ofDundee and the Scottish Information Commissioner and focuses on the implementation, interpretation and enforcement of laws which provide rights to information globally.

The main results of the survey found that 76% of commissioners expect the number of appeals which they will receive this year (2013) to ‘increase substantially and none expected the number to decline. 77% of said their resources are insufficient.

The reported time taken to deal with appeals varies significantly from country to country. The shortest reported average time taken to dispose of cases is 3 days and the longest time is 380 days.

See full survey below.

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FOI boss tells DoT to reveal performers’ fees

| 23/04/2013 | 8 Comments

643804-money-in-a-straw-hat.jpg(CNS): Efforts by government to keep secret how much was paid to performers for particular events hosted by the Department of Tourism have been thwarted by the information commissioner in her 29th decision. Jennifer Dilbert has ruled that the amount artists are paid and the total cost of promotional events paid for by the public purse are not exempt under the law and has ordered the department to disclose the fees paid to artists, which were redacted in a partial release to an FOI request.

Dilbert states in her ruling that the public interest arguments in favour of disclosure were very strong because all the redacted information pertains to government expenditure andDoT’s accountability in respect of compensating performing artists fairly and equitably.

Having found that the government agency needed to reveal the information, the commissioner also points to concerns she had about the quality of the department’s record keeping and what the DoT gave to the applicant in response to the request.

“I am concerned as to the accuracy of those records provided,” Dilbert writes in her decision. “It is often the case that requests are answered by a public authority in the form of a simple spreadsheet or summary of information derived from more complex source records.”

She points out that the FOI Law explicitly grants the right to access all records, which mean that applicants have the right to request the original or existing records on which any summary was based.

See full decision below or visit www.infocomm.ky

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CIAA board over-stepped role

| 04/04/2013 | 24 Comments

owen roberts (220x300).jpg(CNS): Updated – The Cayman Islands Airport Authority (CIAA) Board went way beyond its stipulated role as an oversight body and interfered directly in the management of the facility, according to observations made by a government watchdog. Comments in the management letter last year which accompanied the CIAA financial accounts for the year ending 2011 reveal that the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) had raised concerns, not only about the board’s interference with the management, promotion and recruitment of staff, but a requirement imposed by the board on management that it must approve all of the businesses given work at the airport, which was described by the public auditors as a conflict of interest.

Last month former CEO Jeremy Jackson was sacked by the board following the exposure of a report undertaken by the members which documented a list of mismanagement and misuse of public money at the airport, from boozy lunches paid for on a government credit card to the failure to properly investigate the theft of tens of thousands of dollars of public money.

However, it appears that it was not only the civil servants who were failing to comply with the rules at the authority as the audit letter appears to raise significant questions about the board’s behaviour and its direct involvement in the day to day management of the airport.

In the management report, which was released to CNS following an FOI request, the OAG points to the separation of responsibilities between the board and management to ensure a good corporate governance framework.

“From our review of its minutes and our audit of operations, we found that the Board has engaged in an operational capacity beyond its role as an oversight body,” the report states. “The operations of the board create a conflict of interest that results in a significant breakdown of the organisation's management control framework. This has created a significant risk that decisions and transactions of the organisation could be conflicted or corrupt,” the auditors write.

From directors of the board sitting on procurement committees to the board’s approval for the promotion of staff or an increase in salaries, the auditors present a significant list of inappropriate interference by the board members.

The management letter also lists a number of other concerns of the auditors, including the failure of the airport management to properly tender all its contracts over $50,000, as well as the failure to have contracts signed. The auditors picked up on several discrepancies but also placed the board on notice that its decision to sign an exclusive talks deal with a Canadian company to redevelop the airport was unlawful and did not meet the requirements of the Public Management and Finance Law.

Following the catalogue of issues listed in this report and the document, which was leaked to the North Side MLA Ezzard Miller last month, that pointed to the possibility of a theft at the authority and abuse of office, the police had said no formal compliant had been made to them up to 20 March.

However the Anti-Corruption Commission said Thursday morning that a complaint had now been received.

"We can confirm that an allegation of corrupt behaviour as you describe has been received by the Anti- Corruption Commission. As with any allegation made to the Anti-Corruption Commission referencing corrupt behavior, the complaint is firstly registered, the details are then reviewed to determine the validity or otherwise of the accusations made and the existence of evidence as part of that process,” an ACC spokesperson stated.

See management letter below.

Related articles:

Airport board sacks Jackson (CNS, 1 March 2013)

Canadiansto build airport (CNS, 4 August 2011)

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